Abstracts for Week 3
The Human Frontier: Ayn Rand and Star Trek
On July 16, 1969, Ayn Rand stood watching the ascent of Apollo 11. The American novelist later wrote: “For once, if only for seven minutes, the worst among those who saw it had to feel—not ‘How small is man by the side of the Grand Canyon!’—but ‘How great is man and how safe is nature when he conquers it!’”
Through her fiction, Rand created a utopian vision: a future of pure capitalism, where high technology abounds, and human beings are free in ways they have never been before. Rand’s philosophy, Objectivism, has influenced economists, politicians, and businesspeople at the highest level, from Alan Greenspan to Paul Ryan to Larry Ellison.
Ironically, one month before the launch of Apollo 11, Star Trek had aired its last episode. The franchise would of course make a comeback in the following decades. Today, on the porous border between fiction and reality, Gene Roddenberry’s creation is intimately bound up with how the space-faring future is conceptualised.
Admiration between Rand and Roddenberry was mutual: Rand was a fan of Star Trek, and its creator repeatedly read Rand’s work. Objectivists have carried on the novelist’s interest in Trek. When they imagine a future that is Randian, it is often to the stars that they look.
This paper explores the links between Ayn Rand and the fictional product which, for many of her devotees, best portrays the future as they’d like it to be.
“Thank You Kindly Misthress Banshee—You’re A Woman of Your Worrud”:
Femininity, Folklore and Subversion in the Darby O’Gill Fairy Tales of HT Kavanagh
Herminie Templeton Kavanagh wrote a series of literary fairy tales at the turn of the twentieth century which addressed both adult and child members of the ever-expanding Irish diaspora in the United States of America. Kavanagh was writing at a time when collections of Irish folk and fairy tales were extremely fashionable in the diasporic space of Irish America. This paper will explore how Kavanagh offers her readers a subversive representation of women and gender roles and dynamics and how, in doing so, she was writing back to the misogyny of a particularly popular collection of Irish folklore from 1888, DR McAnally Jr’s Irish Wonders. In her characterisation of her protagonist Darby O’Gill’s wife Bridget and sister-in-law Maureen, she confronts and subverts McAnally’s portrayal of Irish women as domineering wives who behave ignorantly and harass and torment their unfortunate husbands. This paper will also discuss how Kavanagh further champions women in her fairy tales by departing from the established and traditional representation of a particular creature from Irish fairy lore who is always presented as feminine. The supernatural death messenger commonly known as the banshee is reconstituted by Kavanagh as an entirely autonomous and empowered fairy woman who is much more impressive than her male counterparts in the fairy world, just as Bridget and Maureen are much more impressive than their male counterparts in the mortal world.